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Report ranks Oklahoma 39th in well-being of its children

Oklahoma slipped three notches from last year and now ranks 39th among the 50 states for the overall well-being of its children, according to the 2014 edition of KIDS COUNT, a report compiled by the Annie E. Casey Foundation of Baltimore.
by Randy Ellis Modified: July 22, 2014 at 4:00 pm •  Published: July 22, 2014

Oklahoma has slipped three notches and now ranks 39th among the 50 states for the overall well-being of its children, according to a report released early Tuesday by a Maryland-based foundation.

“After a brief improvement in the rankings due to the recession’s impacts on the rest of the nation, Oklahoma has begun to fall again as the overall economy improves,” said Terry Smith, president and chief executive officer of the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy. “This is a clear indication that we have not been making the kinds of smart investments in children that we should be.”

Gov. Mary Fallin’s office declined comment Monday, noting that the governor had not yet seen the report.

The report ranked Massachusetts, Vermont, Iowa, New Hampshire and Minnesota as the five best states for children.

It identified Mississippi as the worst state for children, followed by New Mexico, Nevada, Louisiana and Arizona.

The rankings are contained in the 2014 edition of the KIDS COUNT Data Book, an annual publication compiled by the Annie E. Casey Foundation of Baltimore.

The report ranks states based on 16 indicators that fall under four basic categories: economic well-being, education, health, and family and community.

Oklahoma ranked among the bottom half of the states in each of the four primary categories.

Poverty is an underlying factor that contributed to Oklahoma’s low rankings, Smith said.

Nearly one in four Oklahoma children live in poverty

“Poverty is related to so many negative outcomes for kids and their families,” Smith said, citing poor academic performance and high teen pregnancy rates among areas where Oklahoma’s poor rankings appeared to be linked to its 24 percent childhood poverty rate.

Oklahoma had 47 teen births per 1,000 births in 2012. While that represented a 13 percent improvement from 2005, when Oklahoma had 54 teen births per 1,000 deliveries, it still left Oklahoma tied with New Mexico for the highest rate of teenagers giving birth in the nation.

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by Randy Ellis
Investigative Reporter
For the past 30 years, staff writer Randy Ellis has exposed public corruption and government mismanagement in news articles. Ellis has investigated problems in Oklahoma's higher education institutions and wrote stories that ultimately led to two...
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By the numbers

Following are some of the KIDS COUNT report’s Oklahoma findings:

222,000 Oklahoma children lived in poverty in 2012. That 24 percent childhood poverty rate was slightly worse than the national 23 percent childhood poverty rate.

35 percent of Oklahoma children lived in single-parent families in 2012, the same as the national average. The rate was 32 percent for both the state and nation in 2005.

70 percent of Oklahoma fourth-graders were not proficient in reading in 2013. That’s worse than the national average of 66 percent, but an improvement from 2005 when 75 percent of Oklahoma fourth-graders were not proficient in reading.

75 percent of Oklahoma eighth-graders were not proficient in math in 2013, placing Oklahoma well behind the national average of 66 percent. However, it was an improvement from 2005, when 79 percent of Oklahoma children were not proficient in math.

10 percent of Oklahoma teens were not in school and not working in 2012. That’s worse than the national rate of 8 percent.

There were 36 Oklahoma child and teen deaths per 100,000 individuals in 2010. That’s much worse than the national average of 26 such deaths per 100,000 people, but an improvement from 2005 when Oklahoma experienced 45 child and teen deaths per 100,000 individuals.

21 percent of Oklahoma high school students were not graduating on time during the 2011-12 school year, a rate slightly higher than the national rate of 19 percent.

10 percent of Oklahoma children lacked health insurance in 2012. The national rate was 7 percent.

6 percent of Oklahoma teens abused or were dependent on alcohol or drugs in 2011-12. That’s the same as the national rate. Both improved from an 8 percent rate in 2005-06.

12 percent of Oklahoma children lived in high-poverty areas in 2008-12, a dramatic increase from 2000 when 5 percent of Oklahoma children lived in high-poverty areas. The national rate for 2008-12 was 13 percent.

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